Lumber and Building Materials

Page: 3

WINDOW GLASS - Since I design and build custom houses, roomboxes and architectural components, I have used real glass where requested. I am able to buy glass that is .030" thick and I mount it in window and door jambs that I have grooved with a 1/32" slotting saw or a 1/32" end mill.

I also use .030" thick acrylic for windows and doors using the same mounting technique.

Garry Cosine

Reducing the thickness of wood: The Preac thickness sander is made to reduce wood in thickness.   It has the advantage of leaving none of the chip out experienced with planers on very thin lumber.  It is very easy to use and the abrasive sleeves last a long time.  Works on any thickness or type of wood up to 3" width. I just put it up on the you-asked page of Planing mini lumber can be done using a full size planer and a backing board. It works pretty well down to 1/8".   Thinner than that, I get lots of tear out and lose too much lumber up the dust collector.  This is especially true with the quarter sawn cherry we prefer to use.

The Carbatec miniature lathe and duplicator are also up on the web site.

Pete Boorum

Real to scale measurement converter:  Actually, no need to convert. Measure the "real" furniture with a "real" tape measure, yardstick, etc.  Make a drawing and label the dimensions in true feet and inches. (There is NEVER a measurement of 18 inches. It is one foot - six inches)

Now use a proper one inch "scale" which is simply a ruler with full inches (representing  scale feet) twelfths on an inch (representing inches) and (usually) quarters of a twelfth (1/48) representing quarters, halves, and three quarters of a scale inch)

If you use the most common "Architects' scale", there are full scale feet varying from 2 to 24 scale feet along most of the length. The "inch increments" are only at one end to the left or right of "zero".   There are also metal scales available with scale inch divisions within every scale foot. Usually, these are full inch (1/12th) divisions with finer detail only in the first real inch (scale foot)

For quick reference.

    1/16" thick hobby woods are equivalent to 3/4 inch (modern one-by lumber)

    1/8" thick hobby woods are equivalent to 1 1/2" (modern two-by lumber)

    3/8" thick plywood would represent a wall 4 1/2" thick (IF actually 3/8 thick) 

(if you add 1/16" basswood siding to one side of  3/8 ply - your wall is scale 4 1/2" + 3/4" = 5 1/4 scale inches)

    1/2" thick plywood represents scale 6 inch thick walls, floors, etc

    "single strength" (picture frame" glass is just over 1/16" (3/4 scale") thick

       AWG 14 (14 gauge) bare copper wire is just under 1/16" diameter

The only question now is: How useful is all this in metric Netherlands?  I tried doing a metric project once and simply ended up using   pocket calculator with "divide by 12" and "multiply by 12" as programmable constants. I think I would be a maverick in Europe or Asia and simply model in one- tenth or one-twentieth. For what it is worth, there are vernier calipers available in the USA that measure 0 to 6 inches on the lower scale (in inches and decimals of an inch) and 0 to almost 15.5cm on the top scale.  Simply set one and read the other for quick conversion to 3 decimal places. Example: 1/16" (measured) = .062" = 1.62mm     Micro Mark has an economy version for U$ 10.00 on page 38 of current catalog    For U$ 50, there is a digital model with push button conversion on page 66. I can't say for the Micro Mark offerings but my own Brown & Sharpe has a handy fraction-to-decimal conversion table (to 64ths) engraved on the back.    The nice thing with vernier calipers is that you measure and convert with the same tool.  NOW-  - - -If someone would just offer a scale vernier caliper for 1/12th. It would have a middle scale: Decimals of an inch on the bottom, cm/mm on top and scale feet- inches in the middle We can dream can't we? B^))?>

Mel K.

Lumber Types:

*Quarter sawn cherry is our wood of choice for most furniture because of its hardness, color and texture. We just purchased 10 boards rough sawn to 1 inch thick, 8-12 feet long and 4-6 inches wide. This will last over a year but we need to buy it when we see the good stuff!  Besides, Pam egged me on.

*American walnut has similar physical properties to cherry except the grain is more open, which is problematic in finishing. We have used it often in darker pieces.  I have a pile of 1-1/2 inch low grade material that was used in the cutlery factory for handles.

*Hard maple turns very well on the lathe. We have used it often for beds. I traded for short pieces from a local wood shop program. It doesn't take a stain as well as cherry and is harder to work.

*I made  a run of Stickley tables from quarter sawn white oak fumed in ammonia.

*Red oak and white pine were both effective for flooring in room boxes we used to make.

*Basswood and yellow poplar make good secondary wood for drawer interiors and the like.  My stash came from the same school program. I gave them a flitch of red oak veneer and some sanding belts.

*Holly and ebony veneer make great contrasting inlay or parquetry.

Rosewood, padouk, bubinga, red heart, purple heart and teak make  stunning small boxes and turned items as well as interesting inlay.

In addition, I have a collection of pearwood, applewood,  lacewood and a variety of exotic woods and  veneers ready and waiting for future projects.  In a moment of weakness I acquired a 10in x 12in x 2in thick plank of Obeechie and a similar sized piece of white oak from a boatbuilder who was retiring.  No, I don't have any projects in mind.

We never use balsa.  We don't use birch because it is too unstable and has caused problems. That is same reason we don't use coffee stirrers or the like.  They are usually rotary cut birch and cup terribly.  We also stay clear of most softwoods because the grain contrast between winter and summer wood is too pronounced.  On the other hand, birch toothpicks and imported dowels work fine.

All of these species have been of great value to us.

Pete Boorum

I found an easier way than I planned on for the arch top windows: Instead of cutting and laboriously shaping a piece of wood 5 mm thick   (the thickness of the window's grooved   side strips)   to fit, I'll just cut the arch top hole in the plywood 10 mm less in diameter and run the vertical window strips from the window sills to the edge of the drilled hole, so that when the strips and sill are in place, the visual line of the window strips will continue smoothly straight up into the arch top. That should work fine since the outside of the wood windows are 3 to 4" inset into the brick walls in real life, and that would make them flush with the face surface of the plywood backboard on my model.

The arch top will need to be grooved with one groove for the upper window   to fit in properly, but since I can't use the table saw for that as I did the side strips, I suppose a mini router bit with bottom bearing will do if I can find one.

The fun part comes later for windows, the 4 grooved strips holding the "glass" on those Houseworks windows are an amazingly minute 5/32" thick by 3/16" wide with a 1/16" groove for the "glass" to fit into.

I suppose I can mill some strips 5/32 thick by maybe 3/4" wide so I have something to hold onto.  I found a tiny 2" x 1/16" saw blade on a 1/4"  router shaft at work,  I guess I can try the table router with a new fence guide with a groove cut in it to allow the blade to stick out 1/16" and run the strips over it then rip the strips to the 3/16" width on the table saw. The REALLY fun part which I haven't figured out yet is cutting these strips for the arch top's upper "glass," now THAT should prove interesting! I might just fudge it since the tops won't be openable anyway, by just cutting some veneer out to fit the curve and gluing one on each side of the "glass."


Thin wood: if veneers are too thin to do what you want, I custom cut wood. I have about 15 domestic species and a few exotics. I specialize in 1/8 and 1/16" thicknesses. For precision's sake I can only do 4" wide. I have some very satisfied small stuffers out there. Email me if you're interested.

Ray Lumbert

Landscaping Challenge: I have built sets for museums, collectors, photographers, miniaturist and movies for many years.  I only mention that so you will know that I have a bit of experience that I use when making suggestions to you or other collectors.

A base for a house of 50 inch. by 28 inch. is not as great a challenge as you might anticipate. Though you are concerned about the weight, I would still recommend that it be built of 1/2 inch plywood. I only recommend 1/2" plywood as a base for a landscaped set. Other products, such as masonite or pressed wood will warp, foamboard or 1/4" plywood can break. I would not, however, attach it to the house, in fact, I never recommend attaching a structure to a landscaped environment. It is best to make a false foundation the size of the house as a permanent part of the base and set the house on or into this. By so doing, you can remove your house at any time for repairs or to move it to another location. This hollow shell makes a perfect hiding place for electrical boxes. A foundation can be of brick, stone, lattice or a myriad of other materials. I normally use 1" thick by 2" wide bass or plywood strips to build my shape.

I also like to design a landscape set that collapses for storage or moving. To do otherwise can often result in a problem like the man who built a ship in the barn and had to tear down the barn to take the ship to sea.  A 60" round card table with folding legs could convert to the perfect landscaping plot for your home. I would skirt the table to create a more finished look.

Beneath the skirt I would use plastic or wire rolling carts to store all of the items I had collected for this miniature property as well as the building and landscaping materials I had collected.  I would replace the table top with one of the 60" unfinished wood tops found in most hardware stores.

I am going to quote now, from a booklet  I wrote for miniaturists many years ago..........*So many of you have ask how I would council an individual to go about constructing a miniature environment. My advice is simple - just as you do in real life. First there is the lot (board), then there is the foundation (separate from the dollhousefor easier handling) then you frame the structure and complete the exterior. Most people plant a yard and a tree or two and THEN MOVE IN. The same applies to a miniature home. Done in this manner, with a completed exterior that has been landscaped, you do not have to hide your house in the spare room or basement and not let anyone see it

for the next five years while you furnish it.  Just place a ladder and a bucket of paint with a brush, a roll of wallpaper or two, a few packing boxes, etc. and say the house is still under construction. Finish the interior at your leisure and as your budget allows. Since the house has not been attached to the base you may wire it for electricity at a later date without damage to the set......

Tape together as many sheets of quarter inch graph paper as you need to make a 60" round.....Trace the outline of your house, mark where windows, doors, porch, gutters, drains and other exterior elements are located. Label each of these marks. .......Cut shapes from construction paper to represent the gazebo, pond, fountain, ice house or other exterior structures you wish to have in the future. Now play paperdolls and move these elements around until their placement appeals to you. It is important to select all outdoor structures before deciding on trees, shrubs, walks and patio's. These items are a constant, their size is seldom subject to alteration. Your landscaping elements can be changed to meet the space you have available for them....*

This is by no means all of the story but it should spark a few ideas. If you absolutely DO NOT want to go to the time and trouble to create this environment, I suggest you design planters that will surround your house and can be removed at will. Planters can hold trees, vines and elegant flowers. I hope I have given you a few things to think about.  If the members of SS want to know more about landscaping, I will be happy to address questions posted in SS.

Becky Holliday

Landscaping too-big house: How about that blue foam insulation (or whatever it is they put on the outside of real houses).  It's 1/2" thick, very light weight and available in 4 X 8' sheets from any building supplier.   After landscaping around the house you can cut off the excess fairly easy.  I built 8 roomboxes with some leftovers I got and 8X10 picture frames @ 2 for $5 from Wal-Mart cheap cheap.   

***note: the insulating foam also comes in 1" and 2" thicknesses***

Mary Ann Miller

Magic Brik: For those who've had the problem of trying to remove the little bits from between the grid on the Magic Brik--you really don't have to worry about it!   Just leave it there if it doesn't come off when you pull the grid off the backing sheet.   It is sticky and just provides some added adhesion when you put the mixture over it.   Do, however, seal the whole thing with a coat of fixative of some sort (polyurethane spray works well) after it dries as that increases the strength so the bricks aren't so likely to peel off when bumped in the future.   That has generally caused more problems than anything else with this material.

Dottie in Tucson

Magic Bric: I have done many complete building with it, both red brick and white brick.  One (enormous) tip;  when mixing the brick powder, include a tablespoon full of white glue with the water.   This will give you a brick that is about as strong as ceramic.  Without this glue, the brick tends to crumble when touched.  I don't know why the instructions don't include this information.   I've told the manufacturer about it enough times!

Tom Berkner

How I painted my brick.  First I decided what color I wanted the grout to be and I painted the whole sheet bricks included this color.  Since the brick stuck up a little above the grout line I was able to take a sponge and sponge on several different colors to make a realistic looking brick. The technique is you don't paint the brick but lightly put the sponge with color  on the top of the brick. You repeat this with several different brick looking colors to give you a realistic  multi-grained look. then spray on  some type of sealer.

Kathryn from Virginia

Bricks from wood strips. Find the strip that is the width of the brick you want, then measure the length of the brick and score the strip with an exacto saw blade being careful not to saw through the strip. If you make a jig you can score several pieces at a time. I use the miter box that comes with the saw and mark the length of the brick on the miter box, as you score several strips you slide the group matching the score line with the mark on the box and score again. When you have a proper number of scored strips you glue them onto the structure staggering the score lines. When completed you give it a base coat of the brick color of choice. When that is dry you can sponge the different shades onto the brick in a random pattern. When dry use a sealer and seal the bricks. To grout the bricks you can use Elmers wood filler, fill in the score lines and before the grout sets wipe with a damp sponge to clean of the bricks. When it is completely dry mix a dirty wash and brush on, this will color the grout and give depth to the bricks when you gently wipe over the bricks with a dry paper towel to bring out the high lights. You can also use pastels to do the shading to antique the bricks.

Ellen P

Bricks   from Vinyl Tiles-

I've used them to 'pave' a floor and make fireplaces, hearths, etc - I got 12 x 12 floor tiles that were a good brick pattern.  They have to be the 'old fashioned' kind of tile that will bend and snap - not the newer vinyl tiles that are quite bendable.  (I assume these 'cheapies' are still made -check Color Tile or somewhere similar.)   The 'brick red' ones are probably the most quickly identified as 'brick' in a mini room, but you can use one of the other colors.  The texture of the tile, when seen 'up close', is the important thing.  The tiles with a lot of 'grit' in them - that almost crumble along the lines of breakage, when bent, are what you need - but may be hard to find, now that there is so much 'vinyl' tile on the market.  

Make mini bricks like this: Mark appropriate widths of 'brick' with ruler and pencil.   (An average brick is about 3-1/2" wide, through they vary a lot.)   With an X-acto knife and ruler, score the tiles - then score the 'stripes' vertically the 'length' of the brick....about 8" (in 1:12).   Snap the little bricks apart. This gives an irregular edge that makes the bricks looks more 'authentic' when laid. 

I made a template of the floor area to be covered, then cut a piece of posterboard exactly that size and shape.  I laid the 'brick' on the floor posterboard by first drawing in the rows, using pencil and ruler, then glued the bricks  using a regular white craft glue.  (Apply only the minimum amount of glue - since the moisture in the glue may make it curl.  I like the Delta Quick n Tacky and Aleene's new Quick Dry Tacky since they hold well.   The 'Grab' glues would probably work well, too.   Allow a tiny 'joint' between each brick, and keep the rows of brick straight.  

Since you do such beautiful floors, I don't have to tell you to be sure that your bricks show at least a half brick - preferably a full brick, in those areas which will be seen.... and 'fudge' in areas which will be covered by furniture or other architectural features.... but other readers may need a reminder about this. 

Let the new bricked floor dry 24 hours.  Then get a latex based caulking material (which cleans up with water), that is the color of 'grout' desired. If you can't find the right color, you can color it with regular acrylic paints. Following the instructions - for basic use - but apply to the brick as you would grout tile - working with only a small section at a time, since it will dry quickly.  Use a spatula or something similar, as a flexible putty knife, and spread the 'grout' over the brick - working in about 4" x 4" sections.  Work it into the cracks between the brick, then remove the excess.  Quickly wipe with a damp paper towel to remove all the 'grout' from the surface of the 'brick'.  Grout the entire floor in this manner, and then let dry 24 hours. Although the use of latex-based caulk does minimize the tendency of the posterboard to curl, you may wish to weight it down with books, while the caulk dries.   (An alternative to this might be to spray paint - with acrylic paint which would dry almost instantly - BOTH sides of the posterboard floor before proceeding, to 'seal' the posterboard and keep it from absorbing any moisture in the glue or caulk. 

You can then glue in your finished floor with YES glue, or whatever you prefer.   You could also try an application of regular floor wax on a test piece, to see if it gives a softer, 'worn' patina of old brick you might like. 

You can also make a 'stone' floor, using irregular 'stone' shapes, if you get a limestone, granite or marble type 'stone' finished tile.  The nicest thing about this technique is that you don't have to be nearly as precise as one of the beautiful inlaid floors that you have!  

Linda Gale, Artisan, I.G.M.A.

TO MAKE BRICKS - I mixed a tad bit of blue with red (but plain terra cotta looked great too), rolled it out at thin as I could get it right on the (Airbake) flat cookie sheet.  I  then used a metal ruler to score the horizontal lines and the back of an exacto blade to score the alternating vertical lines.   Then I sprinkled the bricks lightly with colored sands... beige & black... slightly rolled again to embed the sand but not hard enough to roll out the shape or scored lines and baked.  After baking, I gray-washed (watered down gray  paint) and wiped.  A little bit of the sand comes off when you wipe and it leaves a blotted color on the bricks while filling in the scored lines like mortar. Looks very realistic.  The bricks can be easily scored with a sharp knife but I try to make the size to fit my project so I don't have to cut.  I also used this technique to make brick planters. 

Lauriel Of Nags Head North Caro

Thatch roof: There are illustrated instructions on my web site, under Tom's Tips.

Tom Berkner, Earth & Tree Miniatures

Thatch roof: Here in England thatching, although an ancient craft, is still practised. My great grandfather was a thatcher near Oxford. The method is this; armfull size bundles of straw are gathered together and tied with a straw twine. These are then placed on the batons of the roof and held in place with a wooden peg. A whole layer was done like this. Then the second overlapped the first, the same as a tiled roof. In some counties, thatchers have their own "signature" of an animal or shape modelled from the straw and the roof.

Tudor houses often had thatched roofs, but you must remember that the more affluent owner would have been able to afford a peg tiled roof. A mini thatched roof could be made from raffia or bristle, or even a scim of finishing plaster with the thatch indents made in it. I hope this is a help to you.

Liz Taylor

Warping Foamcore: Foamcore has a nasty habit of warping. I always use plywood for the floor to prevent warping. On the other hand, if just the paperclay is curling up and not the foamcore, then you probably didn't spread the layer of yellow glue evenly on the foamcore.

Rik Pierce

Warping Foamcore: Foamcore has a nasty habit of warping. I always use plywood for the floor to prevent warping. On the other hand, if just the paperclay is curling up and not the foamcore, then you probably didn't spread the layer of yellow glue evenly on the foamcore.

Rik Pierce

Warping Foamcore: So this is what I've learned. 1/4" thick foamcore can't be used with paperclay. But paperclay, as Rik has proved, does make great stone and brick and rock. Still, Harry Potter's classroom needed a floor so I made a new floor using the technique Joanne Swanson used in her wizard's classroom how-to in Dollhouse Miniatures. She said to use 1/2" foamcore but I had none, so I used the 1/4" and worked fast. I scribed the rock outlines on the floor as Joanne directed and painted a grey basecoat with bottle acrylics. These dry fast so within 10 minutes I turned the foamcore face down on wax paper, rubbed water over the back with my hands, added more wax paper and weighted it all with some very heavy horse reference books overnight. Did this again for another basecoat the next day. After that I was able to add shading with paint for more realism but the foamcore stayed flat.

I think the Paperclay just had too much moisture over a long period of time for this technique to work.

Denise Pritchett

Stucco on Foamcore: Terri said she wants to stucco the outside of her foamcore roombox and is worried about warping. Just a thought--and I confess I have never used foamcore--if you draw the dimensions of your outside wall on a piece of paper, cover this with clingfilm and make your kleenex stucco wall right on the clingfilm and let it dry flat, you can then peel off your wall and glue it to your box with much less moisture coming into contact with the foamcore, which seems to be the root of the problem. It should work, but you might want to experiment on scraps first.

Donna from Devon

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